Swiss Improvisers Orchestra – Zwitzerland

(Creative Sources)

Try and look at SIO’s website to get some news concerning the ensemble and a smidgen of frustration will materialize if, like me, you are a non-German-speaking specimen. A couple of listens to Zwitzerland erases any difficulty related to the lack of acquaintance with the musicians, as we’re greeted by large doses of technical know-how, animated interplay and wry humor.

Five of the nine performers (Ursula Maehr, Carles Peris, Francis Petter, Valentin Vecellio, Marco von Orelli) utilize wind instruments including recorders, saxes, flutes, clarinets, basset horn and trumpet; the remaining four (Sabine von Werra, Christoph Baumann, Markus Fischer and Jacques Widmer) play respectively cello, piano, bass and drums. No one seems to care about being remembered as an outstanding soloist, even if we sense a measure of amiable virtuosity in each of the participants. The collective’s flexible compatibility remains the central attribute throughout the album, an unclassifiable testimonial of hundreds of different stylistic germs proliferating in synchronized autonomy.

“Grooves And Cuts” is an interesting piece mixing chamber gravity, insect-against-a-window insistence, fake sufferance and pitch-less hissing, at times opening up in spacious odd-meter propulsions. “Marsala And Impro” tests the listener’s ability in keeping track of disparate contrapuntal dynamics before a final choral gathering. “Tales” begins as an obscure, wood-smelling and deeply reverberant episode, then repeatedly walks the line that separates ironic complication and tense minimalism. “Powerloops And Ballad” is perhaps the segment that better epitomizes the group’s aesthetics of swinging between moods and genres, melting cheap night-club jazz, Stravinskian ostinatos and frantic ad-libbing, the whole sounding tightly dressed and incisively witty. The subsequent “March Impro And Coda” — picture a marching band whose members increasingly lose their plots — u-turns from any chance of solemnity, leaving us bewildered by yet another disruption of ordinariness first, and by the unnaturally stretched joint laughter that closes the show later. A rather silly way of signing off in an otherwise nice release.